is our first priority," says John Ferguson, recently retired as the
Elliot and Klara Stockdahl Johnson Professor of Organ and Church
Music at St. Olaf College and minister of music to the student congregation.
"And we attempt to display a diverse cross-section in each
program. It's a continual source of amazement that the same texts
can evoke such different responses from composers and arrangers
throughout the ages." Ferguson's responsibilities include directing
the church music and organ program, teaching organ and conducting
the St. Olaf Cantorei.
Ferguson came to St. Olaf in 1983 from Minneapolis,
where he served Central Lutheran Church as music director and organist,
an appointment accepted in 1978 after a 15-year tenure on the music
faculty at Kent State University. A native of Cleveland, Ferguson
holds degrees from Oberlin College, Kent State and the Eastman School
of Music, where his doctoral study of organ was with Russell Saunders.
While he is respected as a fine teacher and performer,
it is his work as a church musician, especially as an improviser
and leader of congregational song, that has received national acclaim.
Each year he prepares and leads numerous hymn festivals across the
country for both local congregations and professional gatherings.
In addition, he is in constant demand as a speaker and clinician.
He has served as visiting professor at the University of Notre Dame
and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music.
Dr. Ferguson is the author of Worship
Blueprints: Guide to Planning for Worship Music and Walter
Holtkamp: American Organ Builder and the co-author of A
Musicians Guide to Church Music. He was music editor of the
United Church of Christ Hymnal,
published in 1975, and his choral and organ music is published by
Augsburg, Concordia, G.I.A., Ludwig and MorningStar publishing houses.
Since he joined the St. Olaf faculty, Ferguson's skills
as choral conductor and creative arranger have become even more
widely known. He brings a special combination of experience as choral
singer (Oberlin College Choir under Robert Fountain), church musician
and participant in the St. Olaf choral tradition, and his workshops
in conducting and repertoire for church choirs are consistently
rated as highlights at conventions of professional organizations.
He was invited to design and present a hymn festival held in the
Washington National Cathedral as a major event for the recent national
convention of the American Choral Directors Association. He has
presented such events abroad as well in Asia (July 1996 in Seoul,
Korea) and Europe (August 1997 in the National Cathedral of Norway,
Nidaros Dom, Trondheim, as a part of the celebration of the millennium
of the birth of St. Olaf). Although he is a Lutheran, his festivals
are ecumenical experiences drawing upon the greatest treasures of
Christian song from many centuries, traditions and styles.